Navy Ready For Twickenham Showdown
On Saturday the Navy Senior XV march to Twickenham full of confidence after an impressive season thus far. Their confidence is hard earned; they’re playing well and are in great physical condition. This side have real edge and have shown they’re more than capable of matching any side in a physical contest. Dave Pascoe has rewarded outstanding performance by naming an unchanged starting XV to the side that comprehensively dismantled the RAF.
Since stepping down as Captain, Ben Priddey has been in fine form. His accuracy at the lineout and work rate around the park have been of the highest standard. He is joined in the front row by Josh Terry and Chris Robinson. Watson and Makepeace once again combine to form a gigantic second row partnership. The back row is incredibly exciting, and based on current performance, the best in service rugby. Pascoe has been the star of the forwards making countless tackles and positive carries in every outing. This season he is heavier, stronger, fitter and clearly enjoying life outside of the engine room. Sam Matavesi returns from Toulouse where he has gained Top 14 experience. He will start at openside, with Jarrad Hayler completing the pack.
Gareth Rees will start at Scrum half, and Dave Pascoe has made the bold decision to pick Greg Lloydal over Nath Huntley at Fly Half. Brad Janes and Raumakita have formed a direct, granite like centre partnership that will relish a physical battle in the mid field with their Army counterparts. The Navy’s try machine Eldon Myers starts on the wing with Rhys Dimmock-Williams on the other. Craig Duncan is the competition’s stand out player so far and starts at full back. He was electric against the French and the RAF and looks dangerous every time he gets the ball.
The inclusion of Nath Huntley and Ratu Vakalutukali on the bench offer real impact when the game opens up. They’re joined by Beasley, Wilman, Kirwan, Spencer, Bridgen and Chambers.
The Navy’s captain, Scott Makepeace said. “To captain the Navy Senior XV at a sold-out Twickenham is something I never thought I’d do, and it’s the biggest honour of my military career so far. I’ve still got loads to learn, but having Prids and Nath Huntley to help me out has been class. As a group we’re so close and the lads have worked incredibly hard. We deserve to be confident, it’s hard earned. I just want to get stuck in now”.
Despite thrashing the Marine Nationale and outplaying the RAF, the Navy go into Saturday's mouth-watering clash as the underdogs. The Army boast an impressive record at HQ, with the Navy last winning the fixture in 2010. In addition, the Soldiers demolished the RAF in a fashion not seen for many years. The RAF were woeful and this is a campaign they’ll want to forget, but the Army were very good and bullied the Airmen for a painful 80 minutes.
The Army front row will be of concern to John Court, the Navy forwards coach. They overwhelmed an experienced and capable RAF pack, and this is something the Navy squad have worked hard on this week to mitigate. Northampton Saints Second Row, Lewis Bean silenced RAF talisman Josh McNally last Saturday, and was involved in everything good about their comprehensive performance. He will be a target for the Navy, as the only player with real bite in the pack. If he can be silenced the Dark Blue should dominate the forward battle. Jack Prasad was outstanding against the RAF and marshalled an attack the Airmen simply couldn’t cope with. The Navy’s defence will be a different proposition, but if they deviate from their system he will be sure to punish the senior service.
“This is as exciting as it gets for a coach. I’ve got a great bunch of lads that’re working hard and playing well. Saturday is a massive occasion and the squad are really prepared and looking forward to playing against a quality outfit. On paper they’re the favourites, but that’s fine with us. If we go out and stick to our game plan who knows what can happen.” Said Head Coach Dave Pascoe.
“Shortening the camp by a month has turned out to be an excellent decision” said Scott Ashley. “The lads are fresh and look like they could run for hours. In addition, they’re massive and skilful. I know we keep talking about the culture in this squad, but it’s different to previous years. I’ve got no superstars or prima donnas and it’s made a massive difference. This is a great bunch, and I know every man will empty the tank on Saturday”.
The Army vs Navy is always a special occasion, but the Navy have too often left the field underwhelmed with their performance. This year there is a genuine feeling of optimism, and why not? This Navy side have worked tirelessly to get themselves into this position. Their defence has been savage, their attack clinical and ruthless and their discipline exceptional. They’re abrasive, fit and ready to go. Wherever you are in the world on Saturday make sure you follow this game, it’s going to be immense!
Words: Oliver Mason
Images: © Alligin Photography